From the Editor: Below is the transcript of an interview Jay Dyer hosted with Fr. Peter [original video here]. It took place in 2019, before COVID began, but is all the more relevant today. Notice at the end, the concern Fr. Peter has for the talks, at the time, that were occurring which anticipated an upcoming ecumenical service taking place at the Vatican. This service did come to pass, sadly, so you can see Fr. Peter's response here.
Jay Dyer/. All right, thank you, welcome Fr. Peter Heers, have been wanting to have you back on to interview you, for a long time. I know that we spoke a few years ago, and it's a pleasure to meet you in person. You have done a lot of work recently, touching on the issue of ecumenism, so maybe let's start there. Why is Ecumenism a problem? Isn't this just a thing where all of us are going to get together, oh we're all going to find our commonalities and “kum ba ya”. Why is this something that you feel is a danger?
Fr. Peter Heers/. So to understand the nature of ecumenism, and therefore the threat of it, one has to go back to the root of it, at least in modern ecumenism. Obviously, ecumenism is not something totally new, there's nothing new under the sun, we can go back and find strands of it, all the way back into the early Church, and the middle ages, and all the rest. But, in modern ecumenism, it comes out of Protestantism, or the protestant reformation, and particularly, it comes out of the protestant missionary movement. I have a little book on that, people interested can find it online, and download it, or buy it from Uncut Mountain Press.
So, it comes out of the Protestant missionaries going abroad, and finding themselves in the middle of Africa and Asia, or wherever, and they are working side by side to convert the pagans, and yet they are not united. And so, they write back to their churches, in the new world or in Europe, and they say, what's going on here, we have to work together. And then, you start to see the dogmas, which have never really fallen away of their core to ecumenism. You see them already expressed in the 1880's and 70's, and the 19th Century. And that is, that 'dogma divides and experience unites'. That's the famous expression of the…
JD/. So like an existential approach, almost like maybe let's just have, like William James, like the 'experience of the Divine– it can't be stated so we're all having a similar experience'.
Fr. PH/. But that begs the question, dogma what is it? In the Orthodox experience, dogma is an expression of experience. Dogma is experience. And those human words and boundaries, are precisely kept to, and faithfully kept, because they give us the criteria and the path to union. Dogma leads to experience. So when you say, dogma divides experience unites, what is this experience that's uniting, that is not consistent with, or interested in dogma?The whole context is outside the Christian classical context. It's a totally different diversion and apostasy, from the traditional Christian view of dogma and experience.
JD/. So in this protestant missionary effort, were there influences of different schools, or power structures? Like, was there influence of Anglican branch theory, of viewing the church as split into all these different branches? Were there powerful benefactors who began to put money into this, to say hey, let's start the world congress of religions, in the late 1890's, that kind of stuff?
Fr. PH/. Some of the first, the Student Christian Movement is one source, that's a national/international movement to unite all the Christians at the student level. And you see those people, going into Constantinople in 1910, and 1910 in Edinburg, the famous meeting in Edinburg. Which is also seen as one of the sources of modern Ecumenism. You have the YMCA, is an area of Ecumenism early on that buds, and then that leads to the World Council of Churches. It leads first, to the Faith and Order Commission, and then, to the World Council of Churches in the 1940's, so it's all connected, the same people involved. The same people are involved in coming to Constantinople, for instance, and reaching out to the Patriarchate, in early 1910, 1908, 1905, and then again, meeting with them in 1919, and having a comity agreement with the Patriarchate. Evangelicals and Orthodox at the Patriarchate of Constantinople, saying, we're not going to missionize one another. If you know the history, you see all those are connected, and behind that, one has to wonder, how much of that, was just pure Christian desire for unity, or there were other nefarious movements and organizations behind the scene, trying to bring it about. But, what is interesting here is that, Globalism in the 20th Century, is impossible without Protestant missionaries going across the world, and bringing as they said they did, western civilization, English language, and the commerce. That's a part of their mission from England and America, to spread that, throughout the world, and that's the basis upon which, then globalism in the 20th Century rises. So it's all connected, it's all connected.
JD/. Right, and then we think about, you know Roman Catholicism in the 20th Century, has an interesting trek, because early on, we see an initial reaction against this kind of stuff. I know that all the way up unto, like the time of Pius XI in the 20's, there was still a kind of negative attitude by the Roman Catholic Church in Rome at least. There were many American prelates, who were already interested in Ecumenism, but the attitude in Rome, was still kind of against it. Then we sort of see a gradual capitulation, I don't want to go too far into the problems of the Vatican. But, is there a Roman Catholic impetus that is then given to this movement, once Rome eventually accepts it, in John XXIII and by Vatican II?
Fr. PH/.They absolutely follow the World Council of Churches in many ways, in the Second Vatican Council, I mean, they even cite some of the sources, and are even inspired by them. And then, that Ecclesiology out of Vatican II becomes the new Ecclesiology which is promoted by Protestants, and that's the Communal. It's called the Communal Ecclesiology, and that has since been, the dominating theory of church unity. So yes, they took over theoretically, and they've become the center in many ways of ecumenism, from the 60's on, and that's very clear even with the Orthodox. I mean they brought the Orthodox essentially with Athenagoras, and the lifting of the anathemas. So Rome, clearly saw that they could go from this old stance of rejection and strictness, and their going to now open themselves up, but the goals were the same, nothing changes really. And they take over in many ways, the ecumenical movement, and the Protestants, theoretically, what they had said previous to Vatican II, is left in the dustpan of history, theoretically they take over.
JD/. When we look at the theologians, I know that you treat some of them in your book, when we look back at these two theologians, the periti that stand out, you know, we have Congar and John Cortney Murray. We see a lot of strands of influence, we see modernism, we see Americanism we see a lot of different things. But would you locate the central ethos, if you could? I know that there are a lot of influences, but is the Second Vatican Council just a protestantizing of the church? Or is it a modernizing, a liberalism or, is it all of the above? Or, is there one driving kind of, is it masonry? Is it an ecumenist movement, is it all this?
Fr. PH/. Well, you can't understand ecumenism, I think, unless you understand masonry, because it is the inspiration for a lot of, the same views, same vision of religions, is now dominating in the ecumenical movement. So, it's very obvious that these two things, one has been born out of the other. And so, it does raise the question of, what are the true influences behind the Second Vatican Council? And one could begin, have a lot of speculation about, how much masonry influenced Second Vatican Council. I don't have all that data, but it's very consistent with the Masonic view of world religions.
JD/. Is it, like a, relativism basically?
Fr. PH/. Absolutely, absolutely, it's adogmatic. Of course, they're trying to find a theoretical way to justify and to, I mean, Second Vatican Council was very interesting because on the one hand, they're really playing to both groups trying to open up, and yet keep everyone within at the same time, so there's double speak all over the place. On the constitution on the church, one paragraph they have the whole Augustinian ecclesiology, and the next paragraph they have Aquinas and the new ecclesiology that has been developed in the last 50 years, and they are in the same document. And you're trying to figure out, what is the position here? And it's intentional I think, at the end of the day.
JD/. Could we go back to developments in Latin (middle and late) Scholasticism? I know in my research I saw a lot of interesting elements, say, in theologians of the late middle ages that influenced the reformers, and that kind of sparked a reformation, people like Aach and people like Gabriel Bald, they actually influenced Luther and Calvin. But, what about Rome itself, was there maybe an extreme sort of obsession with maybe, Thomistic specification? That at the time of Leo XIII and Aeterni Patris, his encyclical, it says, oh Thomism is the official philosophy of the Roman Catholic church. And then, a few years later you have Vatican I, is that part of the problem? Because a lot of people, the reason I'm asking this is, because a lot of people in the catholic world would say look, Aquinas is what we need to go back to. If we can go back to Aquinas, we can remedy all this modernism and ecumenism.
Fr. PH/.Congar, says the same thing actually. Well, he says go back to the Fathers, but what he really means is Aquinas. And he always sees the Fathers through Aquinas…
JD/. Yes, a lens…
Fr. PH/.Yes, and so they never really get back before Aquinas. And so I think that, the 12th, 13th Century Scholasticism, is the face of Catholicism all the way up to today. And they've unpacked what, one could say that, you know, I think that somebody has famously said that, Protestantism is the engine of secularization, while Scholasticism is the engineer of secularization. You have to go back to the, it's all in seed form, the tree that now has been grown up since then.
JD/. Would you say that this kind of, I mean, there could be different strands of influence that led to that, but could we look at something like, the loss of the doctrine of the nous, and the idea of…
Fr. PH/. Absolutely.
JD/.The idea of man being transformed and coming to know God directly, and it being replaced with, a kind of power structure and external authority in the world, Papacy, Vatican…
Fr. PH/. Well they fall away from, our anthropology, the Patristic understanding of the 'nous' is lost, for the most part, they don't talk about it in the same way, so at that point… I mean, yes go ahead.
JD/. Man is viewed like a thing that you need to give a new intellectual system to, rather than a being that needs to be healed.
Fr. PH/. Yes!
JD/. It's an intellectual system. And this is something that when I was a Thomist, that it took me many years to kind of work through, was figuring out that, I think a priest I respect, Fr. Nikon and [Dr. Ananias] said, well one time, he says you know, one thing that I realize is that in the Roman Catholic's Thomistic view, it's almost like at the end of the day, you are worshiping your idea of God, and not God. Does that make sense?
Fr. PH/. Yes, yes, absolutely. I mean the anthropology is the different, the soteriology, is definitely different, because you are no longer talking about communion in this life, or theosis in this life. It's all after death. So it is only, all you have left is a moralism, and that's definitely what dominates in Catholicism today.
JD/. And Protestantism.
Fr. PH/. And sentimentality. And you see spirituality that becomes sentimental, and all that is, a dissolution from the Patristic vision, in the healing of the soul and body and nous, and the communion of man, in the nous and the heart, with God. So yes, absolutely, you don't see that. And it's amazing that someone like Congar, that read the Fathers, and produced so many of the Fathers in French, that he doesn't see that. When I was doing my research, I was always at awe at that breakdown, that they thought that Aquinas was just following the Holy Fathers, when there's so many instances where there's not.
JD/. Without necessarily getting into too much end time speculation, one of the things that we've covered a lot recently is the spirit of antichrist, which we know, you know John talks about there are many antichrists, spirit of antichrists present. We know there will be, as the Father's said, an end time’s antichrist for sure, but that spirit is obviously evident in the world. And we know the Fathers talk about apostasy in the Church, you know. When we see things like the Amazon Synod, when we see things like the instance of pachamama being blessed by Pope Francis, and so forth, is this connected to ecumenism? I mean obviously it is. But is this a flowering of the spirit of antichrist?
Fr. PH/. Absolutely. Secularism is the spirit of antichrist.
JD/. But what would you say to somebody who said, but wait a minute though, this is not secularism, this is return to religion, and we're blessing pachamama.
Fr. PH/. Well, what is secularism? What is the spirit of antichrist? It's turning the Church into the world. And what are the religions of the world, from the Traditional perspective? The religions are “of the world”, for behind all the religions, and their “gods”, are the demons [as it says in the psalms]. Obviously we are not perennialists, but you can see perennialism lurking in the wings here, ready to take, I always thought that the perfect image of perennialism is the Assisi gathering. If you go back to the Assisi gathering, you see that you have the Pope in the middle, the Patriarch and all the Orthodox, and Protestants, and all the various Christian groups, and you have the religions leaders, with the Jews and the Moslems and all the rest over here… And then, at the end of the ceremony, what do they do, they take, they take each of them the light, in a little ball, and they take it, and they go and put it in the tree in the middle. That is a perfect image of every religion has the light, we are not giving the light to the world through Christianity and Christ, they all have it already, and I think that expresses a perennialistic vision of things. So I think the future of ecumenism is perennialism, and I think it will be the ideological, philosophical basis, let's say, they'll use that theory of the commonality or the unity of religions in the future, and it will be used by the antichrist.
JD/. You had a great quote you mentioned that somebody told you about the questions that will be asked in the future about persecution, maybe not so much, do you accept Jesus?
Fr. PH/. Yes, yes…
JD/. But a different kind of question…
Fr. PH/. Yes, that's a fantastic quote. So, everybody knows, or should know about what I call the new martyr, he's not been glorified by the Church, but Daniel, Fr. Daniel Sysoev, [the Moscow]; he was murdered by a Moslem in Moscow about, I don't know, was it ten years ago, I can't remember. Anyway, he was a great missionary, and he converted many, many Moslems, about 80 or 90 Moslems he baptized, and one day a Moslem came in and shot him dead in his Church. But he said something which is extremely important for all of us, he said, in the future going ahead, Christians, Orthodox Christians will be divided. Well, first of all, the society will come, every society will come to them at some point and say, we're not asking you to deny Christ, we're asking you to accept all the religions, in a perennialistic way, as salvific, as a pass up the mountain, as Shu Chan would say. And the division will now be, between those Christians who see no problem in accepting the other religions as salvific, and those who say only through Christ, and they will be persecuted. And they will be persecuted because they are a threat to society's stability, that's why they will be persecuted, just their stance alone, and their reluctance to accept it, because you will be denying Christ, if you accept the religions as salvific, and a pass up the mountain.
JD/. Yes, "I'm the way, the truth and the light".
Fr. PH/. Absolutely, "No one goes to the Father, except through me". There's an untold number of instances and Church teaching from 2,000 years, which says that no, the incarnation matters. Here it is, they don't want to accept the scandal of the particular, it's at ‘this time and place’ that God became incarnate, and not in other places. It's this Church, and not other places and churches that do this. This is the key.
JD/. I wanted to also ask you about, the quote on quote, status of Palamism. We have a lot of people in Uniate circles, or Ecumenistic circles, or maybe even well intentioned Orthodox circles, who don't understand that Palamism is not an intellectual school of thought. It's not, some flavor that you have, it's actually just orthodoxy. As it progresses and as [it's ..] not just in the theological writings of St. Gregory Palamas and in the Liturgy, and in his prayer life, specially if you look at the triad and the way he bases it actually, and the life of St. Paul, Paul's noetic prayer, it's made it into the Palamite synods, it's made it into our Liturgy, it's normative for us, it's not just a [theoleguno].
Fr. PH/. Absolutely, absolutely, first of all, on the second Sunday of Great Lent we have the Sunday of St. Gregory Palamas. Liturgical life of the Church does not honor those who have not entered into the heart of the Church, and we celebrate him and we commemorate him. Secondly, there are plenty of places all over the Orthodox world right now, that are moving toward establishing an feast day for St. Gregory Palamas', the councils rather, that justified and celebrated his theology. And on Mt. Athos at the center of it, his theology is of course celebrated. But so many theologians of the 20th Century have brought him to bear, and have embraced him like, [Prof. Maseridis and Khristou] and all these others in Thessaloniki. Beyond that, he's been celebrated by the Saints again and again, St. Nicodemus the Hagiorite, who followed him by several hundred years, produced a text all about his theology, unfortunately it was lost to us in a fire in Vienna but, he'd embraced everything about Palamas. And then you have his theology in the writings that are at the center of the Hesychastic tradition in the Church. So anybody who claims that this is like a theologoumenon or this is something that a minor… I mean even in Crete they mention this 9th Ecumenical Council, we don't commemorate it that often in the west, but the heart of the Church and the […] of the Church accepts not only seven but eight, and the 8th and 9th Ecumenical Council. It considers [Photios' Council], condemning the theology behind the Filioque, and Palamas' Council in the 14th Century, as normative for the whole Church. And theologians have confirmed that, since that day, maybe it fell out of view for a time because of the influence of scholasticism, but it's definitely never really left the heart of the Church. So it's just an attempt, again, another attempt, to water down and marginalize, and overcome the perennial Patristic Traditions.
JD/. Excellent. Thank you. Any last words you want to leave us with?
Fr. PH/. I think that in the next six to eight months, we're going to see a rise of attempts to suck the orthodoxy with spirit of the age, and the coming perennialistic mindset. And one example would be, the May event being planned by the Pope, which will have leaders from around the world, both religious and political in Rome, to start off what he called, a new humanism. And so we have to be on guard and mindful of that and of course it's just outrageous and totally unacceptable from an orthodox standpoint. So if, God forbid, the Patriarchs or Bishops go there, this is not going to be representative of the Orthodox Church. I think this is really important, the whole Church needs to be mindful of this, and even [prayerful], such departures which are may even increase, with the erosion through ecumenism of the Orthodox consciousness and mindset.